Afterlife Poems

Poetry that contemplates the afterlife, or what happens after one passes away, is incredibly common in the history of verse writing. Poems on this subject originate from every culture on Earth and vary depending on the writer’s cultural beliefs, religion, and poetic intentions.

The best-known poems about the afterlife use memorable images and recognizable allusions. They tap into readers’ interest in understanding death and coming to terms with losses they may have suffered in their own lives. Poets as different as William Shakespeare and Sara Teasdale have written poems about the afterlife and what they feel is waiting for them after death in one moment or the next.

Some afterlife poems ask readers to look at death as something peaceful or an escape from the struggles and stresses of the real world. Others mourn the end of life and acknowledge death as nothing more than the end of one’s existence, challenging religious depictions of life after death.

No matter one’s personal beliefs, there is an afterlife poem that aligns with and perfectly challenges their understanding of what happens after one passes away.

when god lets my body be

by E.E. Cummings

‘when god lets my body be’ is a poem about the cycle of life and death. The poet E.E. Cummings describes how he wishes to be part of nature through death.

When I Die

by Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

‘When I Die’ is an incredible Rumi poem about eternal life after death. The poet proposes not to grieve his death as it’s just a means to a new beginning, not an end.

Why Do I Love You, Sir

by Emily Dickinson

‘Why Do I Love You, Sir’ by Emily Dickinson is about one person’s relationship with God. The speaker explores why she loves God through clear and memorable language.

“Why do I love” You, Sir? Because— The Wind does not require the Grass

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

In short, ‘Wild Geese’ is a poem, written by Mary Oliver, that expresses what one must do in order to lead a good life.

Wrong Train

by Ted Berrigan

Ted Berrigan’s poem ‘Wrong Train’ connects a speaker’s experiences while waiting for a train to the afterlife. Berrigan presents this idea with vivid imagery.

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